The University of Toledo honored the first director of its planetarium with the naming of the Helen and Elgin Brooks Theater inside the Ritter Planetarium.
Helen Brooks, who was one of two UT astronomy professors for many years and the first director of the planetarium, was the central figure in the creation of the Ritter Observatory and Planetarium.“Naming the planetarium theater for Helen and Elgin Brooks is our way of recognizing their contributions both to the study of astrophysics and to The University of Toledo,” said Dr. Michael Cushing, UT associate professor of astronomy and director of the planetarium. “Helen was instrumental in the creation of an astrophysics group at UT, and this is one way that we are honoring her memory.”
The couple connected George Ritter, a lawyer interested in supporting education, to the incredible science programs happening at UT. With his financial support, Ritter Observatory and Planetarium, which the couple helped plan and design, opened in 1967 as Toledo’s Center for Astronomical Research and Education.Brooks, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT, as well as an honorary doctorate, retired from UT in 1972 but remained an active participant in Astronomy Department events for many years. She died in 2011, and her husband, Elgin, had passed away in 1999.
The Brooks’ support to UT also includes their 1987 contribution that established the Brooks Observatory atop McMaster Hall and a $1.26 million trust gift that established the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professorship of Astronomy.
The couple established the professorship to recognize and support a current UT astronomy professor’s research. The first award recipient is Dr. Karen Bjorkman, Distinguished University Professor and dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, who was recognized at the dedication ceremony for the theater Sept. 17.